BUFORD — A failed fourth-down attempt from the Buford 2-yard line with 48 seconds remaining in the first half is a play Newton would like to have back.
With a chance to knot the game at 14-all heading into halftime, a Neal Howard pass fell incomplete to Jerrol Hines in what would be the Rams’ last opportunity to keep the game close.
The Wolves answered back with a quick touchdown to open a 14-point lead seconds into the third quarter, a swing of momentum that allowed the hosts to cruise to a 42-14 victory at home, handing Newton its first loss of the 2019 season.
The Wolves remain unbeaten with the win and improve to 4-0 on the season in a game Wolves head coach Bryant Appling called a good team win.
“I challenged my kids to win the first five minutes of the second half,” Appling said. “You win the first five minutes, you put a score or two on the board and they start questioning things more and playing a little slower. Our kids finally got it done and I think that’s why we got the momentum rolling in the right direction and put some points on the board the way we did.”
After failing to convert a third-and-18 on their opening possession of the game, the Rams converted both of their third down attempts on their second drive on runs of nine yards from both Josh Hardeman and Quincy Cullins.
Facing a second-and-8 from the Buford 43-yard line, Cullins ripped off the longest play from scrimmage for either team, a 26-yard rush down to the Buford 17. On the very next play from scrimmage, Cullins broke free again, this time ending with the junior diving into the end zone for a 17-yard score.
Trailing 7-0 with 3:32 remaining in the first, the Wolves needed only 1:47 to knot the game at 7-all thanks to a long kickoff return. On third-and-10 from the Newton 36-yard line, Buford’s Justice Johnson walked into the end zone after breaking free down the left sideline and catching a perfectly thrown pass from quarterback Jarvis Evans.
Two plays into Newton’s ensuing possession, Howard was intercepted by Buford’s Jake Pope, who undercut a pass intended for Hines. Taking over at the Newton 29-yard line, the Wolves grabbed their first lead of the game four plays later on Evans’ second touchdown pass of the game to running back Gabe Ervin.
Maintaining its 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter, Newton took over possession at its own 13-yard line and promptly marched into Buford territory on four completions from Howard to Hines. Staying with the hot hand, Howard found Hines once more for a gain of 21 yards to set up the Rams with a first-and-goal from the Buford 8-yard line.
Cullins nearly tied the game on a hard-fought run, but was tackled just short of the end zone for a gain of seven, setting up third-and-goal from the 1-yard line. After a loss of one from Cullins, the Rams elected to go for it on fourth down with 48 seconds remaining in the half, but Howard’s pass intended for Hines fell incomplete, turning the ball over on downs to the Wolves.
“That was huge,” Grant said. “We we were still in a good spot, but being able to go into the half tied 14-14 instead of down by seven I think that would have definitely switched some things.”
Failing to tie the game at 14-all just before the half proved costly for the Rams after allowing a quick 51-yard touchdown from Buford’s Elijah Turner on the first play from scrimmage to begin the third quarter, extending the Wolves’ lead to 21-7.
“We didn’t cover the kickoff too well to start the half and they popped one up the middle," Grant said. "I don’t know if a score right there before the half would have changed that part, but it definitely would have been a big momentum boost.”
Things went from bad to worse for the Rams midway through the third quarter after starting their third drive of the second half from their own 1-yard line thanks to a Hayden Olsen 55-yard punt.
Facing third-and-8 from their own 3-yard line, Howard was intercepted at the 2-yard line by Buford linebacker Mason McCranie, who pounded his way into the end zone to give the Wolves a commanding 28-7 lead midway through the third quarter.
“Hayden is one of the most special kickers that I’ve ever been around,” Appling said. “He’s a great kicker and a great punter. He could be one of our best receivers if we let him. I tell him he’s too valuable for us kicking. He’s a big weapon for us when he’s kicking the ball well.”
Buford added to its three-touchdown lead with Turner’s second quarter of the night, this time on an 8-yard run with 2:55 remaining in the third quarter.
Looking to get back into the game, Newton ended Buford’s 35-0 scoring run with a 75-yard catch-and-run from Howard to Diondre Glover, who out-ran the defense for the score. The touchdown cut Buford’s lead to 35-14 with 2:05 remaining in the third quarter.
The Wolves added one last touchdown in the fourth quarter, an 11-yard pass from Evans to Julien Lewis.
Evans finished his night an efficient 7 of 11 passing for 138 yards and three touchdowns while Turner finished with 123 yards rushing on 13 carries.
“Jarvis has been huge and he’s been growing every week,” Appling said. “Every week he’s getting a little bit better managing the offense and also becoming a leader. I can’t be more proud of him right now.”
“Our kids fought,” Appling said. “It was a crazy week with homecoming and all of the distractions that come with that. New uniforms. I’m glad that they didn’t let those distractions get in the way. They figured out a way to play a tough Newton team and beat in the end and really beat them soundly.”
Buford 42, Newton 14
Newton 7 0 7 0 - 14
Buford 7 7 14 7 - 42
Newton: Quincy Cullins 17 run (Abdiel Velesquez kick), 3:32
Buford: Justice Johnson 36 pass from Jarvis Evans (Hayden Olsen Kick), 1:37
Buford: Gabe Ervin 6 pass from Evans (Olsen Kick), 11:10
Buford: Elijah Turner 51 run (Olsen kick)
Buford: Mason McCranie 2 INT (Olsen kick), 6:31
Buford: Turner 8 run (Olsen kick), 2:55
Newton: Diondre Glover 75 pass from Neal Howard (Velasquez kick), 2:05
Buford: Julien Lewis 11 pass from Ervin (Olsen kick), 8:15